Monday, March 08, 2010

Guest Editorial: No Raise for Cotton

On March 10 at the upcoming City Council Meeting, the Council will be considering granting the City Manager, Phil Cotton an 11% raise that will exceed $240,000 a year not including benefits. This proposed raise comes at a bad time when the economy has not turned the corner to recovery and people are still losing jobs and taking pay cuts. The question I have regarding a pay raise for the City Manager is... Does he really deserve a raise based on his performance?

The City Council created a two member committee to evaluate and make a recommendation regarding a possible City Manager contract adjustment. Teresa Barth and Jerome Stocks were on that committee. As you may know, they don't agree on much, and in the case of giving Phil Cotton a raise, it holds true, as they returned split recommendations.
It is shocking that the City Council would even consider giving the City manager a raise of this magnitude. Barth is not backing a raise at this time, and Stocks has a "Let's give him everything" approach.

Please spend a few minutes and take a look at the agenda item and see just what they both have to say. Take note of the comments and the justification behind Stocks recommendation to grant the raise.

I feel a raise for the City Manager is absurd, and that he has done a very poor job. He has only contributed to creating and harboring a corrupt culture of management within our city. So, with that being said, I decided to evaluate Phil Cotton's performance myself, from a citizen's perspective.

The evaluation that Stocks used was based on the following categories:
• Individual characteristics
• Professional Skills and Status
• Relations with Elected Officials
• Policy Execution
• Reporting
• Citizen Relations
• Staffing
• Supervision
• Fiscal Management
• Community

My comments may be considered a little over the top, but I feel they are accurate. What do you think? Has the City Manager earned a raise?

• Individual Characteristics
Good old boy. Got appointed from within. DID NOT have to compete with anyone for the position. The City never held a competitive selection process for the position of City Manager at the time Cotton was appointed. Is this selection process commensurate and consistent with the other cites in our Region?

The City Council has full control of Phil Cotton because, in the Municipal Code it states that: The City Manager serves at the PLEASURE of the City Council. What's their pleasure today?

• Professional Skills and Status
Military man. Takes orders and gives orders. Information on a "Need to Know" basis only. "Don't Ask... Don't Tell." Cotton has surrounded himself with cronies, secret hand shakes and, the philosophy of ...You Got My back... I'll Get Yours. Oh, and don't forget... A Code of Honor! Remember, It was not a competitive open selection process for the City Manager position. He was appointed from within. It was the good old boy secret hand shake! The City has a pattern of using this type of selection process.

• Relations with Elected Officials
Remember, he serves at the City Council's PLEASURE.

• Policy Execution
Cotton's style must be, a "whatever works" style. The City has plenty of policies. It has the Municipal Code and its Ordinances as well as the Administrative Manuals. The City Attorney, Glenn Sabine, will allow Cotton's boys to push the limits and manipulate the Municipal Code, and completely ignore the Administrative Manual and Administrative Policies.

Cotton has pushed the limit so much so that the City Council is amending the Administrative Manuals to possibly cover up staff's remiss in following City policy. See the agenda item from the February 24, 2010 Council meeting agenda, item #9. Stocks and Dalager are clearing the books and I'm sure that Cotton has his hands in it.

Perhaps something along the lines of....Lets-get-those-policies-off-the-books-fast-before-someone-finds-out-we-haven't-been-following-them...

• Citizen Relations
To my knowledge, I have never witnessed Cotton exhibit any effort at community relations or have any involvement with the citizens. You'll never see him at civic events. He doesn't address the public. Doesn't return emails or phone calls. Has anyone ever heard him speak at a city council meeting? I'm not sure he's even breathing sometimes when I see him at the city council meetings. Cotton doesn't encourage his staff to seek citizen's input. He does not support transparency. Does he really demand his department heads serve the public and citizens?

I believe he has isolated himself from the public.

• Staffing
As a loyal 30 year union member, what can I say, we do have some hard working and are dedicated people that work for the city. Most are the worker bees. It is management where the City falls short. Mismanagement, incompetence, complacency, minimum effort. He does not demand that the department heads display loyalty, courtesy, commitment and professionalism to the citizens. That is the Management Staff Phil Cotton has assembled.

I don't see Cotton exhibiting any strong leadership to his staff. He was a marine that served our country, (and we DO thank him for that). But, now in his position as City Manager, he is condoning corruption and mismanagement. He does not hold his department heads accountable for their actions, but allows them to do what they want, or he ORDERS them to do what HE wants, or what the city council wants. The Hall House could be an example. He's served his country, but he fails to serve the citizens of Encinitas that pay for his over-inflated salary.

He doesn't even live in our city! Maybe if he were paying taxes in the city that he's employed by, it would soften the blow a little.

• Supervision
I don't think Phil Cotton is interested in supervising given the mismanagement he allows to happen. It doesn't appear that he scrutinizes his subordinates' decisions or actions. He must either have a "hands-off" supervision style or an authoritarian/military style, being the Marine that he is. (Remember... Code of Honor.)

By the way, did you know the City of Encinitas has no Civil Service or Municipal Personnel Complaint Tracking System? You cannot file a complaint against a City Employee. There is no process. The front desk at City Hall will direct you to fill out an Ordinance Violation Complaint. That's the only kind of complaint they process! You try and write the department heads... Good luck... The City Manager... Yea Right, like he's going to do something. You go to the City Attorney... he says, "Uhhhh, I take direction from the City Council as per the Municipal Code. Talk to them"...

The City Council goes into the "ignore mode." We have all seen that act. I think that policy is somewhere in the (tongue-in-cheek) "Secret Policy Manual"... The policy states: "If a citizen complains or challenges the City, IGNORE them at all costs, hopefully they will go away". They should work with the citizen to resolve the issue but that might take too much effort.

Here is an example of what could happen... A City employee could, theoretically, tell you to your face... Eat S#*t you A-hole. You would be pissed, and march down to City Hall to file a complaint, right? Well... City Hall has no process for handling Personnel Complaints. Yes, a municipality that has no complaint tracking system for staff.

• Fiscal Management
Lets call it creative... I will use an excerpt from Charlie McDermott's blog post a few day's ago, because he put it so well:

"The rating agencies that the City Council hides behind use a convenient snapshot approach that ignores all the obvious future obligations and revenue shortfalls to say “all is well”. If you were to use reasonable real world comprehensive financial analysis that included future tax revenue drop offs, the looming pension liabilities, and the crater that used to be the CalPERS pension fund – all is not well.

Lastly, these were the same rating agencies that said that Lehman, Bear, AIG, Enron, FreddieIndyFannie, Countrywide, B of A, WaMu, etc. were just fine – mere months before they were vaporized. They lied then and your 401K got hammered and they are lying now and YOUR city will pay. Encinitas is not immune to these problems we are just currently better off than other cities and earlier in the process of circling the drain.

In the near future when the pension shortfall costs and our current fixed debt payments collide with declining tax revenues; services will have to be drastically cut because the our City Manager and City Council created spider web of legal contracts that put the payouts to union employees above all else – like roads, water, etc.

But before they move to cut our services they will continue to operate in denial and cook up all forms of abusive fees and taxation to paper over the truth. The water tax was just the canary in the coal mine.

By the time the forced cuts come the decent, friendly, but seemingly uninformed public will realize they have been had and will push back very hard. But it will be too late, and so our mess will go to the courts and all these platinum retirement packages and will be cut down and OUR city services will operate on life support - there will simply not be enough money to go around."

• Community
Phil Cotton's contributions to the community are negligible and harmful at best. He harbors a culture of mismanagement and corruption.

I conclude:
Stocks states in his recommendation that: Cotton's current salary is "substantially below that of other City Managers in comparable Cities throughout the Region." Let me get this straight... $2000 a month raise + Benefits = Commensurate... Got it! A $26,000 a year raise and we are on par with everyone. Who are the comparable City Managers in our region? How many cities in our region have a population of 60,000? How many Encinitas Citizens live on on near $26,000 a year?...

This Blog is great, it helps the citizens blow off steam and frustration but does not document the individual taxpayer's interests and feelings on this issue or any issues. Posting to this blog anonymously and complaining does nothing. If a few hundred angry residents that share my sediments, flood the Council with emails urging them to not give the City Manager a raise, then we, the people, are taking action.

I'm writing the City Council urging them to NOT restructure the City Manager's contract. Please spend a few moments and bang out an email to Stocks, Bond, Dalager and Houlihan. C.C. Cotton just to let him know how you feel. Also thank Teresa for a wise recommendation.

Steve Meiche
Leucadia Resident


  1. Gosh that is a lot of money.

    I know this is a cush gov't gig we're talking about but when unemployment is over 10% and inflation is negative you do not give your employees fat raises unless they're absolutely irreplaceable AND threatening to leave. Is he irreplaceable? Is he threatening to leave? I seriously doubt it.

  2. Lets get serious folks. We are in a major reccession with 10% unemployment that is honestly 20% if you use real math. People we all know are being laid off, taking pay decreases or a decrease in hours, wishing for the days when some of us got a bonus.

    The City should act like the real world. If they do not reflect what we are all going through then the council has no right representing us. It's that simple.

  3. watch the lap dog Dalager. He will vote whatever Eddie H... oh I mean Jerome Stocks tells him to vote.

    Steve- Nice post. At least you admit you have 30 years of cushy job and will suck the government tit at full throttle until your last breathe. Its not your fault at all, you took advantege of the the publics stupididy which is plentiful.

    Will the public ever wake up? I personally do not think so, I think its to late and Charlie's earlier post is much more likely to happen. The bankrupcy courts will need to scale back the illegal public pensions.

    Cotton should take a 10% cut in these times, not a 20% raise.

    Our city was the only City to give all its employees 14% increase in pay and 40% increase in pension. Its criminal and Bonds, Stocks, Houlihan, and Dalager should all be run out of town or worse.

    They screwed the public bad and the writing was on the wall over 5 years ago. Discussing and Pathetic!

  4. Encinitas Schools are laying off 26 staff members and increasing class size because they do not have enough money. Several people on my block are unemployed and will take almost any job to pay the mortgage. Giving Cotton an 11% raise in this time of economic challenge makes no sense at all. Theresa Barth understands the problems. Stocks is totally out of touch. No raise for Cotton!

  5. If that is true about the schools then a pay raise like that is truly scandalous!

    The good thing about the school layoffs, if it is true, is that principals can only fire certain lame teachers when their budgets are cut. I'd rather have my kid in an overcrowded classroom with a good teacher than 1:1 with a lame teacher.

  6. I will support a raise of 11% if he immediately converts his pension to a 401K and averages in $18K/year served with an annual growth of his his account base of 5% for each year. This would save the City a few $million in future pension costs and would still be a great deal.

    His pension alone is worth so much that a $0.00 annual salary going forward would still be a very good deal.

    But to recap he cannot find a better deal and we CAN find a better manager for less upfront and w/out a pension on the back end.

    Lastly, the City has done nothing for my roads and has raised my water taxes through the roof. So F on performance and F on finances.


  7. I have no idea if Cotton is a good City Manager or not and this post adds little substance to to the discussion. But no matter, no city employee should be getting a raise in this economy and even agrees with that he shouldn't. Clear, City officials should listen to Cotton and not grant the raise.

  8. Re/ 8:00
    "Its not your fault at all, you took advantege of the the publics stupididy which is plentiful."

    "Discussing and Pathetic!"

    Learn to spell before you go calling the kettle black.

    Re/ 9:49
    "I have no idea if Cotton is a good City Manager or not and this post adds little substance to to the discussion."

    At the direction of Cotton, Hazeltine was watching the surf at Beacons while the 30 foot Cyprus tree a former Mayor planted at Leucadia Park was being "accidentally" cut down by his drones. Mitigation? 2 years ago 6 thousand dollars was used to buy 8 trees to replace it. All but two of those trees fell over and the last two now have crutches, undoubtedly are root bound, and will never be safe. If that is the quality of leadership at the top level in our city, let's forego the raise this year, and give him a chance to impress us in the coming year.

  9. Dalager is BAD for EncinitasMarch 09, 2010 6:06 AM

    Geeze- Its a fricken blog. A few misspelled words are not important 2 me. What is important is the content.

    For the anal one at 11:05-

    "It’s not your fault at all; you took advantage of the public’s stupidity which is plentiful."

    "Discussing and Pathetic!"

    There does that make you feel better?

    Good post Steve.

    Charlie's points are right on. The City has no money for fixing streets, parks, landscaping or improving the beach area because its all going to employee salaries and pensions.

    Manager Cotton sucks and should be fired for not addressing the primary reason the City is in finacial ruins.

    Dalager supports the illegal corruption at City Hall. Dalager needs to go.

  10. The following I know to be not true.
    "I have never witnessed Cotton exhibit any effort at community relations or have any involvement with the citizens. You'll never see him at civic events. He doesn't address the public. Doesn't return emails or phone calls. Has anyone ever heard him speak at a city council meeting?
    He does not demand that the department heads display loyalty, courtesy, commitment and professionalism to the citizens.
    He doesn't even live in our city!
    I don't think Phil Cotton is interested in supervising given the mismanagement he allows to happen. It doesn't appear that he scrutinizes his subordinates' decisions or actions.
    Phil Cotton's contributions to the community are negligible and harmful at best. He harbors a culture of mismanagement and corruption."
    They are opinions only, and do not reflect reality. He may not live in Encinitas.Why do you care?
    I support Mr Cotton and have experience of his caring and consistent efforts to meet with and respond the community. Those who are involved with getting things done with the city and working with Mr. Cotton will not agree with you. You may not believe that he should get a raise, but many of your comments are not true and your bias, (?), does not offer a fair and balanced assessment of Mr. Cotton's valuably contributions.

  11. So what do you think Tony. If you were on the Council would you give Phil a raise?

  12. My experience from hearing Tony speak and read some of what he has written, I do not believe, or hope, he would not offer un truths to make his points.

  13. Anon 8:00, I actually think you are a reasonable person and not a moron. Your just misinformed regarding the tits I suck, my employment and my pension.

    Yes I have spent 30 years as a fireman working for the city of Los Angeles. I have spent almost my entire career in the downtown civic center. The high incident areas of Skid row, the high rise and high density residential areas and heavy industrial and commercial areas. Cushy... not really. It is very dangerous, it's physically and mentally demanding. Doing what I've done for the past 30 years is the REAL fire department not just playland here in Encinitas. What I do is a dying trade, the trade of HELPING people, fighting fires, cleaning up natural disasters and civil disturbances. For me it's a dream come true. I work hard and have become an integral part of the community up there with my knowledge and experience. I am a CIVIL SERVANT, a professional and I am loyal to the citizens that pay my salary. When I go to work, I go there motivated to help people, I care about doing a good job. I don't slack or cut corners, If I do people die or get injured.

    It comes down to work ethic, loyalty, motivation, mission and leadership. Those are the things that the management staff here in Encinitas city government seem to be missing.

    If you want to talk pensions we can talk later, right now I've got to go and help someone.

  14. I know, let's throw Steve a party as he is so great. He trashes out fire department, trashes, our Parks and Rec. Commission, trashes Cotton, trashes everyone but Teresa, trashes the Parks and Rec. Dept. Is there anyone he does like, except his union buddies in L.A. Yes, Steve you are getting a huge pension when you retire. And, you have enough time to document dog shit. I really don't think you are the one to talk about Cotton's raise. You're still employed and have incredible benefits, including healthcare, pension, time off. This blog has turned to shit.

  15. Anon 7:14, Ok so prove me wrong. Give me some examples of his leadership and connection with the taxpayers since you have all this first hand knowledge.

    Also, if you have knowledge and posted using your real name and and not as anonymous your comment may have some credibility but ...

    Your anonymous!

  16. 8:06 I retract... You are a moron

  17. 8:06 responding to Steve: What part of my post makes me a moron. I just spoke the truth. Which part did I make up.

  18. One of the first things Phil Cotton did to improve citizen access to public records is to take most of the public documents off the archived documents available on the web. Once again, we are at the mercy of staff to compile documents in response to a used to be easy to search the archived documents on line. If Cotton had any integrity, he would tell the Council to forget about a raise and voluntarily take a 10% pay cut. Stocks shows his acute finanical acumen once again....just because there are blank checks in the checkbook doesn't mean there is money in the bank.

  19. So, Steve, because you are using your name, your attacks are fair and true? And facts that, for whatever reason, are offers annonomously are not true.
    Creditablity is using your name, regardless of what is stated?

  20. Q-Where else can Mr. Cotton go and earn the type of money he earns now??
    A-Only at another city.

    Let him go and earn more money somewhere else.

    Bye bye.....

  21. steve- I 8:00 was not 8:06. I am the misspeller, not the attacker.

  22. Q-where else can Mr.Cotton go and earn the money he is earning??
    A-only working for another city.

    Let him go work somewhere else.


  23. I do not support increasing Mr. Cotton's compensation and said so at the City Council meeting on February 17, 2010 (Item 7). The only raises civil servants should be getting right now are those that government is contractually obligated to pay.

  24. Hm hm.. that's very interessting but honestly i have a hard time figuring it... wonder how others think about this..

  25. Thanks for such a detailed article, beats you focusing on dogs
    all the time and more productive!

  26. Pension Update: Implosion in progress just waiting for the official confirmation..err capitulation


  27. great add Charlie-

    the problem is that 90% of Encintas are Real Estate agents or mortgage brokers that can't get past 2nd grade math. There is no way they understand accounting and economic principals in the article. When you mention liability, they call their insurance guy Jerome Stock and swallow whatever snakeoil he says they should take. Too bad the public doesn't understand and will never wake up!

    I agree with you... in 10 years this whole mess is heading for bankruptcy court. I also hope they start criminal proceedings on the politicians that are knowingly selling out the public they are supposed to be representing!

  28. I think this is the correct link for the NY Times article:

    The other doesn't work.

  29. I am sorry to be so ignorent buy who is Charlie. I think I like him better than Steve.

  30. Tony: Hope to see you stand up to the City Council tomorrow night when they actually vote on Cottons raise. Would be good for those of us that don't know you to get a better feel for how you present things. Thanks.

  31. LA unified school district is tell employees to accept a 10% pay REDUCTION or face 6300 layoffs!!!

    A pay rise for Mr.Cotton?? The council should be asking for a pay reduction of 10% not a pay increase.

  32. ONLY 3 PEOPLE CAME OUT TO SPEAK AGAINST THE CITY MANAGER'S RAISE LAST TIME. It looks like these 30+ posts came from a few individuals (multiple post by the same individual).

  33. Very common to this blog: bitch and do nothing.
    Don't get involved, contribute or offer time of contributions.
    Just complain.

  34. I have my head up my assMarch 10, 2010 5:17 PM

    I am an Encinitas voter.

    When I come out for air, I will never vote for another incumbent as long as I live.

  35. council watcherMarch 11, 2010 6:57 AM

    Council agreed last night....No raise for the city manager.

    The item was the last thing on the agenda following four hours of discussion about the Swami's surf contest.

    Can't blame people for not waiting until 10pm to speak.

  36. Oh! This is awesome! Thanks for countering a few
    misunderstandings I have seen regarding this recently.

  37. Thanks Steve- Your post made this happen. Your right. If we get involved in our community, good things can happen!


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